Mahabharat

The transgender who led to death of the greatest warrior- Shikhandi

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Family of Shikhandi

Shikhandi  is a character in the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. He was born as a girl child named ‘Shikhandini’ to Drupada, the king of Panchala. Shikhandi fought in the Kurukshetra war on the side of the Pandavas, along with his father Drupada and brother Dhristadyumna.

Past life of Shikhandi

In the majority of the versions of the Mahabharat,[1] there is the story of Shikhandi being Amba in his previous birth.

Shikhandini or Shikhandi had been born in a previous lifetime as a woman named Amba. 

Vichitravirya married only her sisters, because Amba told Bhishma that she had fallen in love with Salwa, and was not ready to marry anyone else. Hearing this from her, Bhishma sent Amba with grandeur to Saubala. But Salwa rejected her as well, in shame of losing the combat against Bhishma. Amba then returned to Bhishma and demanded that he marry her according to Kshatriya dharma, but Bhishma declined due to his vow celibacy.

Her feeling of revenge

Enraged at her humiliation, she tried to persuade other kings to wage a war with Bhishma and compel him to wed her. None agreed for they were afraid of incurring the wrath of the great warrior. Amba managed to get Parashurama, Bhishma’s guru, to champion her cause. However, not even Parashurama could defeat Bhishma.

She resorted to penance and received a garland of blue lotuses from Lord Kartikeya and it was foretold that anyone wearing the garland would become the cause of Bhishma’s death. She went to the Panchal, as they were a mighty empire known for its military prowess. However, no one was willing to champion her cause, fearful of antagonizing Bhishma. Amba, in anger, hung the garland on the gates of King Drupada and left in agony.

Austerities performed by her

Amba did severe penance to Lord Shiva for a boon to cause Bhishma’s death. Eventually, her prayers were answered. But, being a woman with no military training, she asked Shiva how should would accomplish her task, and he responded that her future incarnation would be the one to actually bring about Bhishma’s demise. Eager to bring this about, Amba killed herself; in some versions of the story (to explain the time gap between the abduction at Kashi and the Kurukshetra war, Amba keeps on killing herself until she is incarnated into satisfactory situation.Amba was reborn as Shikhandini, the daughter of King Drupada

Her role in Mahabharata

In the battle of Kurukshetra, Bhishma recognised him as Amba reborn, and not wanting to fight a “woman” (or an actual woman, depending on the version), avoided battling Shikhandi. On the tenth day, Shikhandi rides in Arjuna’s chariot, and together, they face Bhishma, forcing him to lower his weapons. Knowing that this would happen, Arjuna hid behind Shikhandi and attacked Bhishma with a devastating volley of arrows. Thus, Shikhandi was instrumental in Bhishma’s death.

Shikhandi was finally killed by Ashwatthama on the 18th day of battle. Dazed and confused, Shikhandi is killed in a sword fight with Ashwatthama when Ashwatthama, Kripacharya, and Kritaverma attacked the Pandava camp on the night of the final day of battle.[8] In some versions of the Mahabharat, Ashwatthama kills Shikhandi’s lover (male or female) in front of him; in other versions, it is Shikhandini’s partner (male/female) who is butchered

Person apart from Arjuna who heard Bhagwad Gita directly from Krishna – Sanjaya

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Usually we think that only Arjuna was the only person to whom Bhagwad Gita was told directly bu there is something else which we are unaware of.

Sanjaya is the only character of the Mahabharata who apart from Arjuna heard the narration of Bhagwad Gita directly from Lord Sri Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead.

He was blessed by the divine sage, the incarnation of godhead, Sri Vyasa Deva to get the divine vision which helped him to see the battlefield sitting beside dhritarashtra and told him everything.

Despite of such a cruel warfare, he never lied to Dhritarashtra and kept on telling him about the death of the 100 sons

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He was hearing Bhagwad Gita directly from Lord Krishna due to the blessings of his spiritual master as he was pleased by his menial service.

Many verses in Bhagwad Gita therefore, begin with Sanjaya Uvacha i.e. Sanjaya Said

His divine vision allowed him to see upto the distance of 80 miles from his area of residence, this is Divya Chakshu.

Shakuni

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Shakuni  was the prince of Gandhara Kingdom in present-day Gandhara, later to become the King after his father’s death and one of the main villains in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. He was the brother of Gandhari and hence Duryodhana’s maternal uncle. Portrayed as an extremely intelligent but devious man, Shakuni is often credited as the mastermind behind theMahabharata war. Shakuni had two sons named Uluka and Vrikaasur (Bhasmasura).

 

It is said that in a military campaign by either Bhishma, Pandu, or Shantanu, Gandhara came under attack from Hastinapur. Hastinapur conquered Gandhar, killed the king Achala Suvala, and imprisoned all the male members of his line, saying that line was full of adharma. This included Shakuni and his 100 brothers (in some accounts, “brothers” is literal, in others it represents other family members in what was common usage at the time). Since all of them were sparsely fed (with one grain of rice each per day) in the prison, the family decided that at least one of them could survive and gave all the rice to Shakuni, the most cunning of them all, so that he could live on to take revenge. Eventually, King Subala, bends the knee to make a permanent mark of the injustice. Considered a man of dharma, his family is allowed to live.

Shakuni was unhappy with his sister Gandhari’s marriage to Kaurava prince Dhritarashtra. He was especially angry with Bhishma for bringing this proposal as he found it insulting and demeaning, not only because Dhritarashtra was blind, but also because the Kurus had destroyed his line years before. He swore to avenge this insult by slowly destroying Bhishma’s clan. He achieved this by poisoning the mind of his volatile nephew Duryodhana into instigating the war with the Pandavas, which destroyed the Kuru line. Thus, he is seen by many as one of the key persons that caused the Kurukshetra War.

Some popular versions of this story focus on Shakuni’s anger over Hastinapur. But that version is not present in the original Mahabharata and is found mostly in modern versions of the epic. Likewise, some versions of the story describe Shakuni using the bones of his dead parents to create dice that will never lose him a game, as Shakuni’s father’s soul enters the dice to make it roll to whatever number Shakuni wanted.

Shakuni is perhaps best known for masterminding the infamous Game of Dice between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. A master of sorcery, Shakuni had his blessed dice which would always follow his will. Unaware of this fact, the Pandavas were defeated in the gambling match. Shakuni encourages Duryodhana, Dushasana, Karna, and the others when they taunt and humiliate the Pandavas.

 

He mainly worked by inciting hatred between the Kauravas and Pandavas; his plans culminated in the biggest wars in Indian history. Although he was very often not successful, he never lost his faith in his ability to destroy the lineage of Kuru. The story mentions that Shakuni, by staying at Hastinapur, is neglecting his duties as king in Ghandar; Shakuni explains to Uluka that his desire for revenge overruns his concern for Gandhar’s people.

 

Anshuman

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Amshuman is a figure in Hindu mythology, the grandson of King Sagara. His father was Asamanja, the evil son of Sagara born from his second queen Sumati (In Ramayana it is Keshini). Amshuman becomes the king after King Sagara’s death. Amshuman’s grandson Bhagiratha brings the Ganges down from the heavens.

When King Sagara performs the Ashwamedha yagna Indra steals the sacrificial horse. Sagara asks his 60,000 sons to go and fetch it. The sons venture to the nether world and find the horse tied beside the meditating sage Kapila. The sons thinking that Kapila is the thief speak rudely to him and try to seize the horse. The sage furious at their audacity burns the 60,000 sons to ashes. When Sagara’s sons do not return he(Sagara) requests his grandson Amshuman to go and look for them

Amshuman follows the path which his uncles took to the nether world. There he sees sage Kapila and the horse. He approaches him respectfully and asks about the whereabouts of his uncles. Upon being told that they were burnt to ashes, he becomes inconsolable. His uncles are unable to attain heaven. Kapila tells him that only his grandson Bhagiratha can bring Ganges down from the heavens. Amshuman reports the sad news to Sagara who becomes grieved. He crowns Anshuman as the king before his death.

Babhruvahana

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Babruvahana

Babruvahana or Babhruvahana is a character in the Mahabharata. He is one of the son of Arjuna, begotten through Chitrangada, the princess of Manipur (present state of northeast india,Manipur or Kangleipak) during the period of his exile at Manipur.

Babruvahana was adopted as the son of his maternal grandfather and reigned at Manipur as his successor. He dwelt there in a palace of great splendour, surrounded with wealth and signs of power. Later he came to know Arjuna was his father, and when he came to see the his father, Arjuna did not recognise him and said he was a wanderer.

When Arjuna went to Manipur with the horse intended for the Aswamedha, there was a quarrel between Arjuna and King Babhruvahana(who is an avatar of Prabhasa) and the latter killed his father with an arrow. Repenting of his deed, he determined to kill himself, but he obtained from his stepmother, the Naga princess Uloopi, a gem which restored Arjuna to life. He returned with his father to Hastinapura. This was on account of a curse by the Vasus, on account of Arjuna’s killing Bhishma(who is an incarnation of Prabhasa) during the Mahābhārata war.

Ashwatthama

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Ashwatthama was the son of guru Dronacharya and he is the grandson of the Brahmin sage Bharadwaja. Ashwatthama is a mighty who fought on the Kaurava side against the Pandavas.

Ashwatthama is the avatar of one of the eleven Rudras and he is one of the seven Chiranjivi. Along with his maternal uncle Kripa, Ashwatthama is believed to be a living survivor of the Kurukshetra War.The rumours about his death led to the death of Dronacharya .

The final commander-in-chief of the Kauravas, Ashwatthama slaughters many in the Pandava camp in a sneak attack. Ashwatthama was the son of Dronacharya and Kripi. Drona did many years of severe penance to please Lord Shiva in order to obtain a son who possesses the same valiance as Lord Shiva. Ashwatthama was born to become a Chiranjivi and cannot be killed by any kind of weapons. Ashwatthama was born with a gem in his forehead which gives him power over all living beings lower than humans; it protected him from hunger, thirst and fatigue.

The Pandavas and Krishna who were away during night, now returned to their camp the next day morning. Hearing the news of these events in the morning Yudhishthira fainted and the Pandavas become inconsolable. The Pandavas went searching for Ashwatthama to sage Vyasa’s ashram. On seeing the approaching angered Pandavas, Ashwatthama as a last resort, devised a Brahmashirsha astra from a blade of grass and invoked it against the Pandavas and Krishna. Arjuna invokes the same astra, which he received by Drona itself, towards Ashwatthama.

Narada and Vyasa came to stop Brahmashirsha astra used by Ashwatthama and Arjuna

On seeing the two powerful astra’s heading for a head on cataclysmic (catastrophic) collision that would result in the total annihilation of the entire Earth, Vyasa stopped these divine weapons from colliding with each other by using his yogic power. He asked both these warriors to withdraw their respective weapons. Arjuna was able to withdraw his Brahmashirsha astra, while Ashwatthama could not do so as Drona did not teach his son how to withdraw it, thus limiting the power of Ashwatthama to use the astra for only one instance. Ashwatthama was given the option of deviating his weapon towards and uninhabited place, so that the astra could explode harmlessly. Out of rage, Ashwatthama instead directed the weapon towards the womb of the pregnant Uttara in an attempt to end the lineage of the Pandavas. The angered Pandavas want to kill Ashwatthama, but Sage Vyasa reminded them of the deceitful tactics they had used against the Kauravas.

As punishment, Ashwatthama was asked to surrender the gem on his forehead. Disgusted, Krishna then cursed Ashwatthama that for 3,000 years he will roam in the forests with blood and puss oozing out of his injuries and cry for death. Since he had no fear of death during war, death would not meet him. He will have neither any hospitality nor any accommodation; he will be in total isolation without any contact of physical communication from mankind and society. The wound caused by the removal of this gem on his forehead will not heal and his body will suffer from a host of incurable diseases forming sores and ulcers that would never heal for 3000 years”

Duryodhana

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Duryodhana was the eldest of all the kauravas. He was the first son who germinated from the one hundred pots that Gandhari kept filled with ghee.

Maharaj Dhritarashtra was blind from birth and had a vast expanse of kingdom. Since, he was the eldest of the two brothers named Pandu and he himself, he ascended the throne. Due to his inabilities, he was unable to rule the kingdom properly.

At the time of marriage, he got a very devoted wife, the epitome of chastity and surrender to husband, Gandhari. He was blessed with 100 sons. Out of them, the first one was Duryodhana.

Gandhari was pregnant for more than a year and when she saw that Kunti had 3 sons, she kicked her womb and a lump of flesh came out. Meanwhile Srila Vyasadeva appeared on the scene and Gandhari showed her anger. In return, Vyasadeva asked her to sprinkle cool water on the mass and it divided into 100 fragments. He asked her to arrange for 100 pots full of clarified butter and then, he put each piece of lump in each pot.

From the first pot, Duryodhana came out and as soon as he came out, his crying resembled braying of an ass.Duryodhana is said to be the incarnation of Kali (demon), the overlord of Kali Yuga and the embodiment of evil source. The day he was born, he unleashed a donkey-like scream which the donkeys outside the home replied to. Despite the advice from Vidura to discard the evil baby,Dhritarashtra kept the child because demons had received a boon from Shiva that the future king would be invincible.

Although loved by his family, Duryodhana and most of his brothers are not seen on the same level as the Pandavas in their adherence to virtue, duty, and respect for elders. Duryodhana is mentored by his maternal uncle Shakuni, who masterminded most of Duryodhana’s plots to humiliate and kill the Pandavas.

He proved himself to be a nice disciple of Kripacharya and Dronacharya.  He was a master in using the Mace. Instigated by his maternal uncle Mama Shakuni, he tried to cheat Pandavas and disrobe Panchali in front of others. He even asked her to sit on his thighs to which Bhima took an oath that he would crush his thighs.

When all of her sons had nearly died, Gandhari called Duryodhana and asked him to present himself before her completely naked so that he would be invincible by her powers. On Krishna’s advice, he covered his genitals and hence, they were unexposed to her powers.

While battling with Bhima, he was almost unconquerable, but Sri Krishna told Bhima to give a sharp blow on his thighs to which he succumbed.